Curtis survives St. James, captures share of district

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Sports Editor

Ever since John Curtis lost the District 10-2A title to St. James in 2007, this past Friday night was earmarked to be the Patriots’ return to the top of the district heap.

As it turns out, Curtis did just that — but St. James certainly wasn’t going to give it up without a fight.

The Wildcats (5-3, 3-1) led 14-7 late in the third quarter, but Curtis (8-1, 3-0) rallied to capture a 17-14 win at St. James, in the process clinching at least a share of the District 10-2A championship.

St. James is finished with district play. Curtis will face Newman on Friday night — a win means an outright district title for Curtis.

Curtis turned the game around on special teams. Curtis downed a Stone Speer punt inside St. James’ 1-yard line. Moments later, the Patriots tackled running back Kenny Zenon in the endzone for a safety.

“It was a base play. We missed two blocks,” said St. James Coach Rick Gaille. “That put them back in the game.”

The Patriots would score on the ensuing possession, as Marchez Patterson capped an eight play, 54-yard drive with a 6-yard touchdown run. Kenny Cain converted a run into a two-point conversion, and Curtis would hold on from there.

Curtis outgained St. James 189-172 in total yardage. Each team turned the ball over twice.

“We matched them turnover for turnover. And we had a bad snap on a punt, which was like a turnover,” said Gaille. “We needed to hold the advantage there, and we didn’t.”

Each defense held tough early on, as the teams finished the first quarter locked in a scoreless tie.

Curtis quarterback Evan Ingram made the first true offensive impact, his 20-yard touchdown run putting Curtis ahead 7-0. That was set up by a St. James fumble.

But the Wildcats wouldn’t back down. Curtis returned the favor, as St. James recovered a fumble in Curtis territory to set up their first score. St. James quarterback Marcus Dumas capped a 12-play drive with a 15-yard pass to Mason King right before the half.

St. James took its first lead in the third quarter as Dumas again made a big play, this time with his legs. He ran for a 42-yard touchdown, giving his team the 14-7 advantage.

“He made a great play,” said Gaille. “We called a pass play, and the field opened up on the side he was looking to. The defense was looking at the receivers, and by the time they figured out he took off, he was able to outrun those guys.

“His running ability was really what kept us in the game.”

But just as St. James seemed to have all the momentum — it stopped Curtis on its next drive — Speer’s punt and the ensuing safety let the air out of the Wildcats.

“They got it at midfield, and just methodically drove it down for the score,” Gaille said.

Curtis held from there.

“We had a couple of opportunities,” Gaille said. “A tipped pass here and a missed third down throw there. Things that killed drives…we weren’t that far away.”

Zenon led St. James in rushing with 79 yards on 15 carries. Dumas ran 17 times for 51 yards and a touchdown. Brad Phillips recorded eight total tackles.

Hanberry intercepted a pass and recovered a fumble for Curtis. Ingram and Cain each rushed for 75 yards.

Now, Gaille’s hope is for his team to have another opportunity to play the Patriots down the road — and perhaps flip the script, as Curtis bounced back from its district defeat last season to down the Wildcats in the 2A state title game.

“It’s a good thought,” Gaille said. “If we play them again, it’ll be because we played well enough to get deep into the playoffs.”